Specialist off-licences are consolidating their resources and rationalising their offers in a bid to fight the muscle of the multiple grocers.
Wine Cellar has sold 45 specialist wine shops to Oddbins as the independents fight to compete against the multiples’ 63.5% share of GB alcohol sales.
The move is typical of a raft of action across the off-licence sector, analysed in detail by The Grocer this week, as they strive to shore up their defences against the supermarkets with a more focused and differentiated offer.
In Northern Ireland, where the multiples, control 25% of licensed sales, off-licence chain Winemark has bought its rival Philip Russell in a bid to establish a major competitor to the supermarkets.
Wine Cellar said that it had decided to follow a strategy that
focused on community off-licence and convenience retailing. MD Paul Gaskell said: “This is the final step in consolidating and refocusing the business and the sale will give us funds to expand our core business. We are actively looking for new sites and potential acquisitions.”
The deal includes a short-term agreement that allows Oddbins to use the Wine Cellar name before converting the stores to its own fascia. It will leave Wine Cellar with 149 no-frills Booze Buster stores, 26 Simply Drinks outlets and 13 Simply Food and Drinks convenience stores.
Meanwhile, troubled chain Unwins is close to completing the sale of 39 unprofitable stores to a variety of independent retail buyers in the c-store and off-licence sectors.
The move is part of a divestment programme confirmed soon after it was acquired by DM Private Equity.
Northern Ireland’s Winemark and Philip Russell both appear in The Grocer’s list of Top 50 Independent retailers at number 33 and 14 respectively.
Winemark is part of Golf Holdings, whose director Patrick Hunt said: “This deal reflects our confidence that the specialist off-licence sector has a strong future here.”
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